The virtue that is laziness

A week or so ago I posted “The Faith to be Idle,” something Dan Kempin wrote about our need to stop working so much.  It provoked some good discussion also.  I want to call your attention to something Larry Hughes wrote in a comment, since I suspect hardly any of you are still following that thread:

Thanks Dan. I loved what you wrote. I read it to my wife because we’ve been on and off discussing this issue. It was so encouraging. I think, no rather, I know you’ve nailed it. That last sentence was golden, “do you have the faith to be idle”. It rings of Luther’s similar statements recognizing unbelief hidden inside “virtues”. Few between Paul and Luther, and damn few after Luther recognize the devil’s real tricks. Even a pagan recognizes the “black” devil as Luther put it, few recognize the “white” devil (the angel of light) as he also put it.

E.g. when Luther was once asked what he’d do if he found out Christ was coming today his reply was “plant a tree”. He recognized the unbelieving trap behind the question of Christ’s sufficiency. Similarly Luther points out numerous times the good works, that false piety or unbelief guised as faith would never in a thousand years allow as good works as being when the believer eats, drinks, sleeps, etc… Luther in kind commented on he and Phillip drinking beer while the Word delivered the blow to the pope.

An analogy might be a child completely secure in his/her home who simply eats an apple or play in the mud with great joy. They do not toil and spin in anxiety over satisfying their parents as if to “merit” their love, they believe their parents love them, so in this earthly faith over earthly parents they play and laugh in perfect secure faith in their parents supplying all they need. They believe their parents. They know supper is coming because they are children and not slaves or rejected whereby they must merit their meals, bed, clothes, shelter, etc…

The scriptures are pregnant with this. Christ Himself says the lilies of the field and birds of the air do not toil and spin but in perfect created placement know their heavenly father knows their need and gives to them. Jesus sleeping on a cushion as the storm waves rage about the boat in PERFECT faith, yet the disciples start to become anxious and then toil in their unbelief. It apexes at the cross where Christ on one hand cries out “why hast Thou forsaken me”, then “into Thy hands I commend my spirit”.

But we don’t do that, and America has become the nation now that is most unbelieving as a whole. Not so much by its immoral issues, but because of its virtues.  Iit thus toils and spins in rank unbelief. It eschews, in reality, its holidays, it’s restful weekends. Oh we give it “lip service” but we don’t really enjoy these gifts of God. Israel as the nation of God had entire feast months, seasons and years, forgave debts, etc…” This is unheard of in America. Decades ago the old Soviet Union early on attempted in its anti-christic state to shift to 10 day work week in order to grow the nation powerfully and be “more productive”. At length it found that diminishing returns increased as it exhausted itself. God has ordained 7 days with at least one day of rest, man in vain usurps this. Now America has never “officially” ordained a 10 day work week, but we all well know it de facto has gone there for the most.

This is no legalism on “you can’t do anything on the Sabbath” but recognizing the creature gift of God of rest and leisure. Luther comments in his LC on the third commandment for example: “But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God requires in this commandment, note that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need of it [holy days]), but first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.” . . .

Carl Trueman, I believe he is Reformed, writes well on this: “Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness. As Kierkegaard once said, ‘Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good’ — a truly amazing theological insight. Some may think that that maybe going a bit far, but compared to the idea that the essence of humanity is busy-ness, it is much to be preferred.”

“… laughter in the face of adversity and hardship not only being vital in this regard but also, of course, an almost exclusively social phenomenon that requires company; drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.”

Who of us unbelieving workaholics among us exhausted by the incessant work we think is a virtue does not secretly feel deeply the need for this and laments its loss!

I love that line, “Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness”, i’ts just like “do you have faith enough to be idle.”

via The faith to be idle | Cranach: The Blog of Veith#comment-128736.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dan Kempin

    “An analogy might be a child completely secure in his/her home who simply eats an apple or play in the mud with great joy. . . they play and laugh in perfect secure faith in their parents supplying all they need.”

    Great analogy. And, as you say, this image is all over the scripture. It is right in front of us. “Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a child . . .” Children play. Very profound.

    You make me wonder if the Lord’s repeated command to “not worry” is a further exposition of the third commandment.

  • Dan Kempin

    “An analogy might be a child completely secure in his/her home who simply eats an apple or play in the mud with great joy. . . they play and laugh in perfect secure faith in their parents supplying all they need.”

    Great analogy. And, as you say, this image is all over the scripture. It is right in front of us. “Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a child . . .” Children play. Very profound.

    You make me wonder if the Lord’s repeated command to “not worry” is a further exposition of the third commandment.

  • Pingback: The faith to be idle: kids know supper is coming « theology like a child

  • Pingback: The faith to be idle: kids know supper is coming « theology like a child

  • http://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan

    Dr. Veith,

    Awesome post! Again, I must thank you for providing blog material for me. : )

    + Nathan

  • http://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan

    Dr. Veith,

    Awesome post! Again, I must thank you for providing blog material for me. : )

    + Nathan

  • Dennis Peskey

    Dan (#1) Could be a reflection of the meaning of the First Commandment. Do we trust the Lord enough to rest securely in him alone? I’ve always found the inclusion of the word “trust” solely to the explanation of the first commandment something worthy of meditation.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Dan (#1) Could be a reflection of the meaning of the First Commandment. Do we trust the Lord enough to rest securely in him alone? I’ve always found the inclusion of the word “trust” solely to the explanation of the first commandment something worthy of meditation.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dan Kempin

    Dennis,

    Yes. True. All commandments go through the first, and faith is at the heart of this. I suppose it leads to the third commandment if we connect “rest” as a result/expression/exercise of faith. Good ponderables.

    I suppose you could even say that first commandment faith leads to blessings in the other commandments, whether regarding family, neighbor, spouse, and possessions. Why is there the impulse to reject the blessing of “rest” as impious? (We use terms like, “laziness; idleness; slacking.” Even the phrase “down time” implies that we are merely going through a necessary recharge to get back to that which is important.)

    That is still a point I am struggling with.

  • Dan Kempin

    Dennis,

    Yes. True. All commandments go through the first, and faith is at the heart of this. I suppose it leads to the third commandment if we connect “rest” as a result/expression/exercise of faith. Good ponderables.

    I suppose you could even say that first commandment faith leads to blessings in the other commandments, whether regarding family, neighbor, spouse, and possessions. Why is there the impulse to reject the blessing of “rest” as impious? (We use terms like, “laziness; idleness; slacking.” Even the phrase “down time” implies that we are merely going through a necessary recharge to get back to that which is important.)

    That is still a point I am struggling with.

  • Random Lutheran

    Otium cum dignitate!

  • Random Lutheran

    Otium cum dignitate!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Beautiful post. nice conversation

    only one thing missing as per my favorite line:

    “drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform”

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Beautiful post. nice conversation

    only one thing missing as per my favorite line:

    “drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform”

  • larry

    “Why is there the impulse to reject the blessing of “rest” as impious?”

    Exactly!

    If you ponder what Trueman was getting at concerning what Kierkegaard was getting at, “a truly amazing theological insight”, we begin to grasp the problem. Because at first blow it seems contrary to our thinking we’ve so well learned in modern times. It’s one of those I like to call “fish moments” where the fish is being told he is ENTIRELY wet and responds, “Wet, what is this contradictory thing you speak of?” He’s SO wet to be told he is wet appears utterly absurd.

    Same thing here.

    Truman writes, “As Kierkegaard once said, ‘Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good’ — a truly amazing theological insight.”

    It’s just a much a twister of our fallen minds as is Luther’s apropos, “…the Law says do and nothing is done (i.e. at all even though much is done), but the Gospel says, ‘believe’ and all is already done (i.e. even though nothing at all may be getting done per se).” One has to see that through the Cross for it is contrary to fallen thought.

  • larry

    “Why is there the impulse to reject the blessing of “rest” as impious?”

    Exactly!

    If you ponder what Trueman was getting at concerning what Kierkegaard was getting at, “a truly amazing theological insight”, we begin to grasp the problem. Because at first blow it seems contrary to our thinking we’ve so well learned in modern times. It’s one of those I like to call “fish moments” where the fish is being told he is ENTIRELY wet and responds, “Wet, what is this contradictory thing you speak of?” He’s SO wet to be told he is wet appears utterly absurd.

    Same thing here.

    Truman writes, “As Kierkegaard once said, ‘Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good’ — a truly amazing theological insight.”

    It’s just a much a twister of our fallen minds as is Luther’s apropos, “…the Law says do and nothing is done (i.e. at all even though much is done), but the Gospel says, ‘believe’ and all is already done (i.e. even though nothing at all may be getting done per se).” One has to see that through the Cross for it is contrary to fallen thought.

  • Dust

    Here’s a good book related to this topic: “Leisure: the Basis of Culture” by Josef Pieper

    http://www.amazon.com/Leisure-Basis-Culture-Josef-Pieper/dp/1890318353/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318006760&sr=8-1

    Read at your leisure :)

  • Dust

    Here’s a good book related to this topic: “Leisure: the Basis of Culture” by Josef Pieper

    http://www.amazon.com/Leisure-Basis-Culture-Josef-Pieper/dp/1890318353/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318006760&sr=8-1

    Read at your leisure :)

  • Grace

    Rest, .. time to think .. time to let my mind wander, reflecting upon the current, thanking God for my life, my precious husband and family, praying for those in need. Gazing out into our back garden, the fountain trickling down, the birds coming to drink, knowing the water will always be there. Knowing that God is always here, HE knows the very hairs on my head, HE loves me.

    Rest is an oasis, just as food is for the body, so is rest for our mind.

    Thank you LORD for rest!

  • Grace

    Rest, .. time to think .. time to let my mind wander, reflecting upon the current, thanking God for my life, my precious husband and family, praying for those in need. Gazing out into our back garden, the fountain trickling down, the birds coming to drink, knowing the water will always be there. Knowing that God is always here, HE knows the very hairs on my head, HE loves me.

    Rest is an oasis, just as food is for the body, so is rest for our mind.

    Thank you LORD for rest!

  • SM

    G.K. Chesterton pointed out that the term “leisure” has been used to describe three different things: “The first is being allowed to do something. The second is being allowed to do anything. And the third (and perhaps most rare and precious) is being allowed to do nothing.”

  • SM

    G.K. Chesterton pointed out that the term “leisure” has been used to describe three different things: “The first is being allowed to do something. The second is being allowed to do anything. And the third (and perhaps most rare and precious) is being allowed to do nothing.”

  • Pete

    larry @7 “…the Law says do and nothing is done (i.e. at all even though much is done), but the Gospel says, ‘believe’ and all is already done (i.e. even though nothing at all may be getting done per se).”

    Great quote – do you have a reference? I’d love to use it for my Bible class lesson tomorrow.

  • Pete

    larry @7 “…the Law says do and nothing is done (i.e. at all even though much is done), but the Gospel says, ‘believe’ and all is already done (i.e. even though nothing at all may be getting done per se).”

    Great quote – do you have a reference? I’d love to use it for my Bible class lesson tomorrow.

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    Thank-you for this post!
    Jewish theologian and philosopher, in God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism (1955), points out that so many important Hebrew words in the Scriptures can be readily translated into English. But one word can not be translated, but only transliterated: Sabbath. The rabbi continues:

    “Perhaps Sabbath is the idea that expresses what is most characteristic of Judaism. What is the Sabbath ? A reminder of every man’s royalty; an abolition of the distinction of master and slave, rich and poor, success and failure. To celebrate the Sabbath is to experience one’s ultimate independence of civilization and society, of achievement and anxiety. The Sabbath is an embodiment of the belief that all men are equal and that equality of men means the nobility of men. The greatest sin of man is to forget that he is a prince.
    The Sabbath is an assurance that the spirit is greater than the universe, that beyond the good is the holy. The universe was created in six days, but the climax of creation was the seventh day. Things that come into being in the six days are good, but the seventh day is holy. The Sabbath is holiness in time.
    What is the Sabbath? The presence of eternity, a moment of majesty, the radiance of joy. The soul is enhanced, time is a delight, and inwardness a supreme reward. Indignation is felt to be a desecration of the day, and strife the suicide of one’s additional soul. Man does not stand alone, he lives in the presence of the day…Civilization is on trial. Its future will depend upon how much of the Sabbath will penetrate its spirit.”

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    Thank-you for this post!
    Jewish theologian and philosopher, in God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism (1955), points out that so many important Hebrew words in the Scriptures can be readily translated into English. But one word can not be translated, but only transliterated: Sabbath. The rabbi continues:

    “Perhaps Sabbath is the idea that expresses what is most characteristic of Judaism. What is the Sabbath ? A reminder of every man’s royalty; an abolition of the distinction of master and slave, rich and poor, success and failure. To celebrate the Sabbath is to experience one’s ultimate independence of civilization and society, of achievement and anxiety. The Sabbath is an embodiment of the belief that all men are equal and that equality of men means the nobility of men. The greatest sin of man is to forget that he is a prince.
    The Sabbath is an assurance that the spirit is greater than the universe, that beyond the good is the holy. The universe was created in six days, but the climax of creation was the seventh day. Things that come into being in the six days are good, but the seventh day is holy. The Sabbath is holiness in time.
    What is the Sabbath? The presence of eternity, a moment of majesty, the radiance of joy. The soul is enhanced, time is a delight, and inwardness a supreme reward. Indignation is felt to be a desecration of the day, and strife the suicide of one’s additional soul. Man does not stand alone, he lives in the presence of the day…Civilization is on trial. Its future will depend upon how much of the Sabbath will penetrate its spirit.”

  • Jerry Roseleip

    Pete @11. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation #26

    The law says, »do this«, and it is never done. Grace says, »believe in this«, and everything is already done.

    The first part is clear from what has been stated by the Apostle and his interpreter, St. Augustine, in many places. And it has been stated often enough above that the »law« »works wrath« and keeps all men under the curse. The second part is clear from the same sources, for faith justifies. And the law (says St. Augustine) commands what faith obtains. For through faith Christ is in us, indeed, one with us. Christ is just and has fulfilled all the commands of God, wherefore we also fulfil everything through him since he was made ours through faith.

  • Jerry Roseleip

    Pete @11. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation #26

    The law says, »do this«, and it is never done. Grace says, »believe in this«, and everything is already done.

    The first part is clear from what has been stated by the Apostle and his interpreter, St. Augustine, in many places. And it has been stated often enough above that the »law« »works wrath« and keeps all men under the curse. The second part is clear from the same sources, for faith justifies. And the law (says St. Augustine) commands what faith obtains. For through faith Christ is in us, indeed, one with us. Christ is just and has fulfilled all the commands of God, wherefore we also fulfil everything through him since he was made ours through faith.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  • Dan Kempin

    Rev. Mark, #12,

    Thank you or sharing that. You left out the Rabbi’s name in the quote, and I would like to know it. His insight in to the Sabbath is tremendous and affirms my sense that there is much to be mined there.

  • Dan Kempin

    Rev. Mark, #12,

    Thank you or sharing that. You left out the Rabbi’s name in the quote, and I would like to know it. His insight in to the Sabbath is tremendous and affirms my sense that there is much to be mined there.

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    Dan @ #15:

    You are welcome. Oops. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel even wrote a book entitled, The Sabbath. Wonderful. Are you familiar with him?

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    Dan @ #15:

    You are welcome. Oops. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel even wrote a book entitled, The Sabbath. Wonderful. Are you familiar with him?

  • Dan Kempin

    No. But thanks.

  • Dan Kempin

    No. But thanks.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    ‘Don’t just do something…sit there!’

    Thanks, Larry. Thanks, Gene.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    ‘Don’t just do something…sit there!’

    Thanks, Larry. Thanks, Gene.

  • larry

    Pete,

    Looks like Jerry beat me to it, the reference, thanks Jerry.

    Dust, I just borrowed that book from our churches books shelf and have not cracked it yet. Is it good?

    Larry

  • larry

    Pete,

    Looks like Jerry beat me to it, the reference, thanks Jerry.

    Dust, I just borrowed that book from our churches books shelf and have not cracked it yet. Is it good?

    Larry